"Today is Mozart's birthday," Boris Goldovsky said Wednesday evening, "and we are dedicating this performance to him as a birthday present." The New England Opera Theater's Cosi is competent and buoyant enough in the singing, rather dry and prosaic in the orchestral playing. Mr. Goldovsky conducts almost every number too fast, but the fine voices and fluent technique of the singers (especially the men--John McCollum, Robert Paul and Ronald Holgate, and Wednesday's Fiordiligi, Marguerite Willauer) go at least a little ways toward rescuing the situation. The staging, also Mr. Goldovsky's, is brisk though not particularly witty, and the only really unqualified success are Leo van Witsen's gorgeous clothes, whose rococo sometimes borders on the fantastic.
It is not a bad operatic production, but it is an inadequate production of Cosi, for which good intentions are not enough. If it is right to bring Mozart before the public even in slightly marred versions, it is also right to lavish exceptional amounts of care and money on him, and Wednesday night's under-rehearsed orchestra evinced neither. The New England Opera Theater might also remember this when producing Mozart: except for a small amount of recitative, a professional company has no right to cut the operas. Length is no excuse; audiences can easily take three and a half hours of Mozart. The intermissions can bear abbreviations better. And occasionally, it might be nice to have Cosi in Italian, because it is pleasant to hear Mozart sound natural. Whether Cosi in English is a sound educational policy or not, the translation is stilted and unlovely, while Da Ponte's Italian is fluent and graceful.